However, those hoping for another dose of Earthbound goodness will find themselves disappointed -- but in a good way
Contact was an obscure little game for the DS until cryptic screenshots featuring a visual style similar to that of the NES cult-hit Earthbound began to show up. The title began to gain notoriety as the spiritual successor the ignored but beloved Earthbound series.
- Unique story-telling methods, character customisation, funny dialogue, it's quirky
- Simplistic combat, vague objectives
For those with patience, a good sense of direction, and an interest in the obscure, you owe it to yourself to try the game out. If you have a short temper or enjoy the mundane, it's best you avoid making contact with this one.
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
However, those hoping for another dose of Earthbound goodness will find themselves disappointed, but in a good way: Contact isn't a generic rip-off or a me-too title. Instead, it's a unique and goofy game that defies stereotypes and embodies the same sort of spirit that made Earthbound so memorable.
So what makes Contact stand out in the crowd? Pretty much everything, from the interface, to the visual presentation and the story. The visuals are a mix between simple 16-bit goodness — the top screen which is where the game's space-travelling professor and his belligerent pet Mochi serve live — and a colourfully realistic style for the bottom screen where the game's main protagonist, Terry, hangs out.
The story is also told in a thoroughly unconventional fashion. Our aged professor breaks down the 4th wall by appealing to you, the player, for help in repairing his crashed intergalactic ship. Your task, essentially, is to scour the planet for energy that can power his hunk of junk back into the cosmos. You take control of an unassuming young boy named Terry who is completely unaware of your metaphysical control over his every action. He gets wrapped up in the events of Contact by sheer coincidence, but he must help the professor find a way to repair his ship if he ever wants to return home.
And as if the bifurcated visuals and unique story-telling methods weren't enough, there's the character customisation. Terry has over 30 attributes that gain in level the more he (you) use them. How to do you get stronger? By bashing enemies' heads in with a blunt object, of course! Want to boost your speed? Then start running! The stat system is similar to that in Oblivion, but it's been radically simplified and condensed.
Choices, choices choices!
You also customise Terry through his costumes. Each costume that's featured in the game serves a unique function: the chef costume is for cooking, the thief costume is for unlocking doors and boxes, and the racing jumpsuit allows you to unleash fire attacks. Each also boosts specific stats, so it's important to choose a costume that matches what your objective is.
All these disparate features, along with some obscure but still funny dialogue, make for a quirky and really enjoyable game. However, a few debilitating additions keep it from being a masterpiece. First, the simplistic combat becomes grating because it's very hands-off: you simply enter into a battle stance by pressing the B button and the game takes care of the rest, with you only having control over when to use power-ups and special moves.
What really drives Contact into a tailspin is the infuriating lack of direction and vague objectives. Time and again, our progress was stalled because of cryptic instructions or a complete lack of guidance, which resulted in a ton of wasted time backtracking through levels trying to find that which would propel the game forward.
That's it as far as the problems go. They do impede the fun enough that they deserve consideration but Contact's inventive gameplay, colorful graphics and unique story also deserve to be recognized.
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